Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Ramayana Books

Via Chris Rice at Twitter, I learned about a new animated Netflix project in development, based on... the Ramayana! Here's a write-up at Deadline.com: Netflix Orders Ramayana-Inspired Animated Action Drama Series ‘Heaven’s Forest’ From ‘Castlevania’ Team. They've committed to 8 episodes, an "Indo-futuristic" setting, with Ramayana plot and characters. 

So, I was thinking that people might be interested in some Ramayana books to read. And there are MANY Ramayanas. On that topic, there's a brilliant essay by A. K. Ramanujan: Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translatipm (online thanks to the University of California Press).

Traditional versions. The most famous Sanskrit version of the Ramayana is attributed to a poet name Valmiki, and there are other Sanskrit versions, plus versions in other languages of India, and there are also versions of the Ramayana in other south Asian traditions. There are some nice English versions of these traditional Ramayanas, some longer, some shorter; this is just a partial listing, in order from shorter to longer:

The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic by R. K. Narayan (at Amazon; 200 pages). I use this version in my Indian Epics class. You can find lots of cheap older editions from used booksellers!

Ramayana by William Buck (at Amazon; 400 pages). This is the first version I read in English myself, and I'm still fond of it. Lots of cheap older editions available used for this book too!

Ramayana by C. Rajagopalachari (at Amazon; 500 pages). Rajagopalachari was a remarkable figure in the history of India; you can read more about him at Wikipedia.

Ramayana by Arshia Sattar (at Amazon; 600 pages). Arshia Sattar also collaborated on a lovely new book: Ramayana: An Illustrated Retelling (Amazon).

The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic by Ramesh Menon (at Amazon; 700 pages)

Ramayana by Kamala Subramaniam (at Amazon; 1000 pages)

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Modern adaptations. In addition to those traditional versions, there are some fascinating modern retellings! After you have some basic familiarity with the traditional story, you are ready to enjoy and appreciate any of these great books. I have just listed a few; there are so many brilliant experiments going on with modern takes on the ancient epic:

Sita's Ramayana by Samhita Arni with illustrations by Moyna Chitrakar (at Amazon). This is a gorgeous graphic novel!

The Missing Queen also by Samhita Arni (at Amazon). This novel is hard to describe... but I think it's brilliant; Sita is "the missing queen" of the novel's title.

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik (at Amazon) and The Book of Ram also by Devdutt Pattanaik (at Amazon). Devdutt Pattanaik is my favorite mythologist, in any language. He is also a great illustrator!

Lanka's Princess by Kavita Kane (at Amazon). This is the story of Shurpanakha, the sister of Ravana, the lord of Lanka and the villain of the traditional Ramayana.

Sita's Sister also by Kavita Kane (at Amazon). This is a take on the epic from the perspective of Sita's sister Urmila, who is married to Rama's brother Lakshmana.

Asura: Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan (at Amazon). This is an astounding novel about Ravana, and if you like audiobooks, the audio performance by Denzil Smith is one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to.

Vanara: The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara also by Anand Neelakantan (at Amazon). This is another book by Anand Neelakantan, also wonderful; it focuses on the story of the vanaras of Kishkinda, who are important characters in the Ramayana.

Ram - Sita - Ravana, a trilogy by Amish (at Amazon). The Ravana volume just came out recently, and I have not read it yet, but the Ram and Sita volumes are both really good!

Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Divakaruni (at Amazon). This is a new novel about Sita by Chitra Divakaruni; the paperback version just came out this week!

Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana edited by Anil Menon and Vandana Singh (at Amazon). This is a fabulous anthology with all kinds of short fiction in all kinds of styles.

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